The video footage is clear, and hard to watch: a Tacoma Police patrol car running into and through a group of pedestrians.
The 48-second clip, shot shortly before 7 p.m., was shot in the downtown area. The patrol car, surrounded by groups of shouting people, revs its engine and suddenly surges forward, striking the group and running over at least one individual before driving on.
Mark, the eyewitness who shot the video and provided it to The News Tribune, saw five to six cars spinning in circles on South 9th Street between the intersections of Court A and Pacific Avenue.
A crowd of three dozen people were gathered around the intersection, cheering on the drivers, Mark said. Traffic through the area came to a standstill.
Mark, who asked that his last name not be used, said a fire truck first went through the intersection, temporarily putting a stop to the action. But the racers and crowd quickly reformed.
Next, a Tacoma police car approached the area from Pacific and South 11th Street. Mark said the police unit took back streets and then came into the scene on South 9th Street from the east. Mark heard a siren but not any voices from the car’s bullhorn.
“A lot of people swarmed in that direction (of the police car),” Mark said. “They were intending to block him.”
The officer backed up about three feet and then suddenly accelerated forward, striking several people and knocking four to five of them to the ground. It appears the vehicle then drives over something, or somebody. Another video from the same scene and posted to Twitter appears shows the vehicle driving over a person on the ground.
Two people were injured in the incident. Investigators said one person had been released from the hospital by Sunday morning. Details about their gender, age and specific injuries were not immediately available. Neither victim suffered life-threatening injuries, according to the Pierce County Force Investigation Team, which is investigating the incident.
Tacoma police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were notified shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday of street racers and a crowd of approximately 100 people blocking streets in the area.
Haddow said the officer used his car’s bullhorn to address the crowd. The crowd then began pounding on his windows, she said.
“He was afraid they would break his glass,” she said. That prompted him to speed out of the scene for his own safety.
One person sustained a laceration in the collision and was transported to a local hospital, she said.
Haddow said the officer stopped a short distance from the scene and immediately called the incident in.
City Manager Elizabeth Pauli told The News Tribune on Saturday night that the officer involved will be placed on leave and she is turning the case over to the Pierce County Force Investigation Team.
“The most important thing to know is we’re very concerned of any injuries this evening,” Pauli said. She said she was aware of one person transported to the hospital but that their condition is unknown.
Pauli added she’s concerned about any use of deadly force by a police officer and said she’ll take appropriate actions once she has all the facts of the case.
Tacoma Police released a statement Saturday evening addressing the incident:
“At approximately 6:19 p.m. this evening, South Sound 911 received numerous reports of an incident occurring at the intersection of South 9th and Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. There were multiple vehicles and approximately 100 people present blocking the intersection when officers arrived on scene. Tacoma Police officers responding to the location began clearing the intersection of vehicles and people for the safety of those gathered and people trying to use the street.
“During the operation, a responding Tacoma police vehicle was surrounded by the crowd. People hit the body of the police vehicle and its windows as the officer was stopped in the street. The officer, fearing for his safety, tried to back up, but was unable to do so because of the crowd. The officer had his lights and sirens activated.
“While trying to extricate himself from an unsafe position, the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others. The officer stopped at a point of safety and called for medical aid. One person was transported to an area hospital. That person’s condition is, at this time, unknown.
“Tacoma Police Department has contacted the Pierce County Force Investigation Team (PCFIT) and turned the investigation over to them to conduct an independent investigation of this incident.”
The statement concluded with a quote from interim Police Chief Mike Ake:
“I am concerned that our department is experiencing another use of deadly force incident,” the statement reads. “I send my thoughts to anyone who was injured in tonight’s event, and am committed to our Department’s full cooperation in the independent investigation and to assess the actions of the department’s response during the incident.”